Long-Range Sleeper: The Tikka T3X Compact Tactical Rifle—Full Review.

Send to Kindle

To learn more, visit http://www.tikka.fi/rifles/tikka-t3x/t3x-compact-tactical-rifle.

To purchase a Tikka T3X on GunsAmerica.com. click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=Tikka%20T3X.

In Finland, “tikka” means woodpecker and like the small bird that will continuously peck at the same spot on a tree, Tikka rifles continuously hit the same spot on a target. I had heard plenty of good things about the Tikka rifles, but beyond internet forum discussions and magazine articles I hadn’t really had any exposure to them before now. Sure, there was the odd one at a long-range match but in my area Remington, Savage, and Winchester rifles still dominate the gun stores and shooting benches. I cut my teeth on Remington rifles and have owned my fair share of custom and factory offerings but I kept hearing how superior the Tikka rifles were. There was a time when I just considered that big talk and now that I’ve had a Tikka T3X Compact Tactical in my hands, I don’t think it’s all talk.

In the author's opinion, the Tikka T3X is one of the best options around for long-range shooters—and is easy on the wallet, too!

In the author’s opinion, the Tikka T3X is one of the best options around for long-range shooters—and is easy on the wallet!

The bolt of the Tikka T3X is very easy to disassemble for maintenance and cleaning.

The bolt of the Tikka T3X is very easy to disassemble for maintenance and cleaning.

SPECS

  • Chambering: 6.5 Creedmoor
  • Barrel: 20 inches
  • OA Length: 40.1 inches
  • Weight: 7.5 pounds
  • Stock: Synthetic
  • Sights: None
  • Action: Bolt-action
  • Finish: Stainless steel
  • Capacity: 10 rounds
  • MSRP: $1,148 (as tested)

As I alluded to before, in some parts of the country Tikka is an unknown or unfamiliar brand. Older gun stores will tend to stick with what they know and big box stores will stick with what sells. All the while this Finnish arms company can get overlooked in the US market and it’s a real shame. The Tikka story starts out 123 years ago when Tikkakoski was opened as a metal shop in 1893 and in 1918 it started to manufacture firearms components.  Skip ahead to 1983 and SAKO, another Finnish arms company well known for making top end hunting and tactical rifles, merged with Tikka. Tikka then became more or less a value brand under SAKO’s umbrella and started to sell the Tikka T3 as a competitor to the venerable Remington 700. The Tikka T3 did well but in 2015 there were rumors that Tikka T3 was going to be discontinued and totally new rifle released in its stead.  Well, that turned out to be partially true as it eventually came out that the T3 was being usurped by the Tikka T3X.

New Kid on the Block

The Tikka T3X is more or less an upgraded version of the original T3 rifle. When redesigning the rifle Tikka focused on areas that customers had complained about previously or had other companies provide modifications for. Tikka improved the stock with new texturing on the pistol grip and forend, along with an innovative pistol grip that could be swapped out for a more vertical grip if so desired. The stock was further refined with a softer recoil pad and a foam-filled buttstock to cut down on noise and vibration. Although this stock is made from a hard plastic, it’s not exactly a low-quality piece that is best just done away with shortly after you buy it.  A chief criticism of many OEM stocks is that they are just too flexible, especially when using a bipod, which can cause the accuracy to suffer. This just isn’t the case with the Tikka’s stock; it took some effort to get the stock to flex enough to touch the free floated barrel; way more then what you’d see using a bipod. Tikka also started using a steel recoil lug inside the stock as opposed to the aluminum lug that was used on the T3 rifles. While I’ve never personally witnessed it I was told that the aluminum recoil lugs could deform over time and many T3 shooters swapped it out for a steel lug as easy upgrade to the T3. It’s nice to see that Tikka has taken care of that step for the consumer.

The magazine well is nicely beveled to aid in the smooth insertion of the 10-round magazine.

The magazine well is nicely beveled to aid in the smooth insertion of the 10-round magazine.

The steel magazine does not protrude much past the trigger guard.

The steel magazine does not protrude much past the trigger guard.

Upgrades to the action itself include enlarging the ejection port so that a shooter can more easily drop in a round for single feeding. Tikka also provides what was once a common upgrade many consumers made, which is a metallic bolt shroud, although the rest of the bolt assembly appears to still be the same.  As I pleasantly found out, Tikka’s bolts are incredibly easy to disassemble with very little in the way of tools needed. Simply turn the bolt shroud clockwise to pop the bolt shroud off, use a small wrench to pull back on the cocking piece while rotating it up onto the small flat, and pull the bolt handle off. The wonderful thing about that too is that the shooter can also replace the bolt handle and bolt knob with one that has a different shape or angle to suit them. The Tikka T3X’s bolt is the same two lug design as the previous T3 and it also has the same 70° bolt throw. Most bolt actions that you find with a two lug bolt body have a 90° bolt throw, meaning that from the open position to closed position the bolt rotates 90°.  While the difference between 70 and 90 may not seem like all that much on paper, in use it seems worlds apart; the operation of the bolt feels smoother and faster. The Tikka trigger was also something I started to really fall in love with while I was shooting the rifle. It feels great right out of the box with hardly any creep and just a little overtravel after it breaks, in other words just about perfect. Not only does it feel great, it’s also extremely easy to adjust by turning a small screw in the front of the trigger housing to fine tune it if need be. Turning the screw in and out will with an allen wrench will set the trigger pull weight between two and four pounds. I adjusted mine slightly after I received it and it’s a very consistent three pounds of pull measured using a Lyman digital trigger pull gauge.

The rifle offers extreme value with features like a side-bolt release, aluminum trigger guard and a threaded muzzle.

The rifle offers extreme value with features like a side-bolt release, aluminum trigger guard and a threaded muzzle.

Hands On

The muzzle is threaded to accept suppressors or muzzle brakes and comes with a thread protector cover.

The muzzle is threaded to accept suppressors or muzzle brakes and comes with a thread protector cover.

This particular T3X that I received for review was their Compact Tactical Rifle (CTR) so it comes with some extra options and accessories over what you would find with their other rifles.  The 20” barrel is finished off with a 5/8-24 threaded muzzle that can be used to service a sound suppressor or other muzzle device. If you do not wish to attach a muzzle break or do not have a sound suppressor then the included thread protector will ensure you have the option down the road. For the T3X CTR, Tikka includes a 1913 rail; however, it is a 0 MOA base so that should be taken into consideration when you are selecting and mounting a scope. The Burris 4-20X50 XTRII that I was using for testing has a maximum internal elevation adjustment of 26 mils and after zeroing the optic that left me with 11 mils of elevation adjustment. Understand that the 26 mils inside the scope gets split into 13 mils of adjustment above and below the mechanical center of a scope, and the zero process will eat up some more adjustment. With most of the ammunition I was shooting, though, 11 mils of elevation adjustment was just enough to reach 1,000 yards. The CTR is further equipped with an aluminum bottom metal to accept the Tikka CTR 10-round magazine that is included with the rifle. The one feature that I loved about this bottom metal was the ambidextrous magazine release just in front of the trigger guard. Simple push out with your trigger finger and the magazine drops free easily to safe the rifle. The magazine is worthy of mention too; it’s a steel double stack, single feed magazine with a 10-round capacity but the low profile will make you think it holds less ammo. It is certainly a quality magazine though, right up there with Accuracy International magazines, however be prepared to spend some bucks on an extra one though. A 10-Round Tikka CTR magazine is about $115 from EuroOptic.

I think something that concerns many people and I know it’s something that I consider whenever I’m looking at a rifle from a brand I’m not familiar with is how is the aftermarket support. With the Tikka rifles that support is pretty good actually; multiple companies offer different stocks, scope rails, trigger components, and bolt accessories.  The sheer amount of accessories may not be as robust as say for the Remington 700, but it is considerable and many of the options offer a pretty good value. As an example you can buy an all-new Tikka bolt handle with a different shape and/or angle for about $60 give or take, which you can change out in less than five minutes at home. Changing out the bolt knob on a Remington 700 will have you spending about double that cost once you buy the new knob and send it off to have the handle threaded, which generally takes about a week from most shops. I’m not slamming Remington 700s, I’ve had three of them and still use them quite a bit, but the Tikka is sort of on a different level.

The enlarged bolt knob and 70-degree bolt throw offers smooth cycling.

The enlarged bolt knob and 70-degree bolt throw offer smooth cycling.

The aluminum bottom metal has an enlarged trigger guard for use with gloves.

The aluminum bottom metal has an enlarged trigger guard for use with gloves.

Range Time

So, enough about the features and how this got upgraded and that got changed out, I’m sure you all want to know how it shot right? I will just say that I don’t think this rifle is going to disappoint you very much and I know it surprised the heck out of me. This Tikka is certainly a step above in my opinion. I had four different kinds of ammunition to use for testing from two brands: I had Precision Hunter, American Whitetail, and Custom Match ammunition from Hornady, as well as American Eagle’s 140-grain BTHP ammo. Across the board, none of them shot over a 1.00” five-shot group at 100 yards, which for a factory rifle (in a plastic stock) with factory ammo is pretty good. Hornady Precision Hunter ammunition pushing a 143 gr ELD-X bullet was a spectacular performer though in terms of accuracy; it put five shots into a 3/8” group. As you can see from the chart, you may mistakenly think performance like that came from a custom bolt-action rifle. Shooting steel at 200 and 300 yards was also no difficult task and I always love watching the bullet impacts turn a dark grey spot into a slightly larger dark grey spot after each hit.

shooting-resultsSince this is a relatively light tactical precision rifle it could see use as a hunting rifle, varmint gun, or competition rifle so I wanted to try it out in an alternative shooting position; not just the prone. When I had the opportunity to shoot out to 600 yards it gave me the perfect chance to shoot the rifle from a set of Stoney Point shooting sticks. Shooting sticks are very handy to have when shooting in the field because it allows the shooter to get up over vegetation or other obstacles but still have some stability. Off the shooting sticks at 575 and 615 yards the low weight and good balance made it easy to keep the gun steady and make good hits on target. From the prone the rifle was almost boringly accurate, ringing steel was not a problem, even in the dodgy winds that were present on the range that day. The 143 gr ELD-X bullet slammed the steel with authority and reported back with a satisfying ring with every hit. This rifle was a tack driver from 100 to 600 yards and it wasn’t even trying that hard, even when the barrel was hot. I didn’t experience any stringing issues or mysterious shots that were off target. Any misses that I experienced were either totally my fault for not following the fundamentals or could be blamed on dodgy winds that liked to switch directions. I wrapped up my shooting day with much respect and admiration for the Tikka rifles; they have stupid simple construction, phenomenal accuracy, and a level of end-user customization not present in most tactical rifles.

There’s probably some people that have read this review and thought that Tikka has done us a disservice by offering .264 caliber rifles with short 20″ barrels that handicap their performance. Those people are sort of right, but at the same time they’re only looking at one part of the larger picture that is external ballistics. A 6.5 Creedmoor with a 20″ barrel is going to have less muzzle velocity then a rifle with a 24″ barrel in the same caliber, so it will have more drop and wind drift. However, if you look at it in comparison to another popular long range cartridge, the .308 Winchester also from a 20″ barrel, the supposed handicap isn’t so clear cut. Check out the nearby chart and see for yourself—all the of the data used is from the Tikka and one of my personal .308 rifles.

chartSo as you can see the two rifles are pretty much neck and neck ballistically speaking out to about 500 yards and then the 6.5 Creedmoor starts to run away with it. At 1,000 yards the 6.5 Creedmoor is dropping less with less wind drift than the short barrel .308 due to the better ballistic coefficient of the .264 ELD-X bullet. I didn’t show it on this chart, but the 6.5 Creedmoor is also hitting with 560 ft/lbs of energy at 1,000 yards compared to about 480 ft/lbs from the 20″ barreled .308. Essentially, with this light, short-barreled 6.5 Creedmoor you’re getting performance that is the same or better than a .308 match rifle without the weight and recoil penalties.

Probably the most amazing part of all of this is the Tikka’s value, its price to performance ratio if you will, the model that was tested in this article has a street price of about $1,150 and the all black version is just under $1,000. I think if you compared the feature set and performance of the T3X to rifles from other brands in the same category, well there might not be much comparison. Without hesitation, I would recommend this rifle to anyone that is looking for a new long-range rig, whether they are first timers or veterans, that need a rifle that will perform to the max. Law enforcement agencies, even those on a budget, could also benefit from taking a look at the Tikka T3X rifles for their precision rifle needs.

To learn more, visit http://www.tikka.fi/rifles/tikka-t3x/t3x-compact-tactical-rifle.

To purchase a Tikka T3X on GunsAmerica.com. click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=Tikka%20T3X.

The two-position safety will lock the bolt down in the "safe" position.

The two-position safety will lock the bolt down in the “safe” position.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Blake Williams May 3, 2017, 6:13 pm

    Hi,

    Read your review along with several other ones and I purchased the Tikka Tx3 CTR along with a Vortex 5X20 new fancy scope today. I just want to share how appreciative I am for your comprehensive review.

    I have become (not bragging okay) really proficient with my Cooper 17 HMR at the 100 yard range, as in hitting the center of penny sized “dots” literally every shot. Even hitting the tiny competition really tiny dots on 1st-2nd shots I am blasting off the paper.

    So I have wanted to move “up” to a super accurate rifle that will allow me to get beyond 200 yards with high accuracy and I decided not to go with a 223 Sako/Cooper after much study and consultation because of essentially everything you said (that others have both wrote about and said personally to me). I pick it up tomorrow from a great guy down here in Houston who owns a shop called The Scopesmith.

    I will be at the 100 yard range all day tomorrow zeroing it and blasting small targets. I can’t wait!!

    I will let you know how things go if you are interested.

    Keep up the good work!

    Blake in Texas

  • BOhio January 19, 2017, 8:13 am

    Publishing ‘best group’ accuracy as an indication of a rifle’s performance is bogus. Totally bogus. Even a blind squirrel as the saying goes… Called flyers, shooter error, etc. are all bogus. Either follow the American Rifleman protocol of five consecutive 5-shot groups and publish the average for at least three kinds of ammo, or don’t characterize the rifle’s accuracy performance as anything but speculation and high hopes. Put those in one hand, and cow$h*t in the other. Which has more substance?

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend